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Probably

Probably

by Marco M. Pardi

Some things have to be believed to be seen.” Ralph Hodgson

All comments are welcome and will receive a reply. All previous posts are open for comment.

While in college I had an acquaintance with a Professor of Mathematics and his wife: he, Ph.D. Princeton; she, Ph.D. Columbia. Although I was in my twenties and they in their sixties we got on quite well. We several times met for dinner and long conversations at restaurants near the university. He did have a somewhat disconcerting habit: Either in appreciation of his meal or in an effort to make room for more he would expel several cubic feet of military grade methane from his large intestine, announced by what sounded surely like a beginning student of the Tuba. This being before smoking was banned in restaurants I did have initial fears of a nearby cigarette blowing the dessert cart across the room or of nearby diners having their then raised eyebrows singed. But I told myself: Probably not.

One evening, as I hesitated mid-sentence, he interjected with the statement that he knew of a computer program which could predict the next word I would speak. This being the late 1960’s I was remotely aware of computers. I was also in my fourth year of field operations with technical support from an agency which did almost all its work with computers. So, I was keen to learn more. But the conversation proceeded and I was left with a simple impression that a probability formula had been programmed into a computer.

However, this aroused my interest in just how much of our behavior is based on assumptions of probability. And what do we learn from surprise. Thinking back, I remembered how my mother, new at driving an automobile, said a prayer before even turning the key. Did she assume that would probably safeguard us from a crash? And that St. Christopher medallion pinned to her sun visor. Would that fetish object perhaps come to life should we take a wrong turn and probably guide us to our destination? I never saw him waving his hands to get her attention so I guess it worked.

The fear of a crash would have been more supportable had we been in the habit of driving places late at night. One State where I lived ran almost nightly public service broadcasts outlining how the risks of encountering a drunk driver increased exponentially with each passing hour into the night. And I actually did witness what appeared to be impaired drivers while driving home from teaching college night classes. Or maybe they were my students trying to regain equilibrium after two or three hours of listening to me. Either way, I seldom caught myself connecting the hour of the night with the driving styles of oncoming traffic. To me, a drunk was just as likely, or unlikely, to be driving home from tailgating at an afternoon football game, at least on week-ends, celebrating some event, leaving Happy Hour, or just supporting an addiction.

Somewhere in my development I began an effort to avoid using terms like: Never, Definitely, Can’t be, Must be, and others when asked to assess the likelihood of an action or event. I preferred to visualize a horizontal axis with the ultimate and seldom occurring negative at one end and the ultimate and seldom occurring positive at the other. The long axis in between allows for a scale running from very improbable to highly probable. While that may seem evasive, like “hedging one’s bets”, it seemed to disarm Life’s malicious habit of springing unpleasant surprises. Thus, when circumstances allowed for marriage, a “soft” disclosure that I had already been the embedded principal whose work had put six men in various federal prisons was called for. These cases being before going completely black, I had been required to appear in court for each trial and each sentencing hearing. Some people serve their sentences and straighten out their lives, some return to their former activities and are either re-imprisoned or killed, and some hunt the person who put them in prison. It was just a matter of weighing the probabilities, and factoring that into considerations of becoming a spouse and a parent.

But drama aside, how many probability calculations do we make each day. Do we buckle our automobile seat belt to avoid a ticket, to minimize injury in a crash, or some scaled combination of the two? How often do we order some outrageous meal at a restaurant while saying, Just this once probably won’t kill me. How many onces do we run up in a week, or a month?

I have never liked gambling although I’ve been in some well known casinos around the world. I was there for things other than gambling. But I observed the rows of cadaverous gargoyles perched atop stools in front of slot machines. Pallid complexion, hooded eyelids, their only necessary sense was hearing, to detect the clatter of coins dropping in the machine tray, ensnaring them to play just a while longer…..probably the next try…or the next. I wondered if some sophisticated viewer was embedded in the machines, reading the faces and guessing when the player was about through, then feeding the tray with more coins to keep them playing.

My point (probably) is that we go through daily life on a steady stream of probability calculations, most of which are other than conscious. After all, we are more often told that worry is bad for us, not good for us. But sometimes we can find quiet amusement in calculating a probability. A decades long interest of mine is quantum mechanics and theoretical physics. Years ago I read that even the hardest substance known to Man is not really solid; the substance consists of sub-atomic particles (which in one perspective are simply waves) that, relative to their size, they are as far or farther apart from each other as the stars in our galaxy. The particles are not fastened to each other; they are held together by an attractive force in a kind of force field which is ordinarily imperceptible to us. I think of this sometimes as I am lowering myself onto a hard chair. My much softer – and getting softer, butt is about to encounter a force field through which, probably, my much less dense butt is unlikely to pass. Probably. But maybe……just this once… I can hear Scotty on the intercom telling Captain Kirk, The force field is holding Cap’n!

Years ago I heard it said, Expect nothing and you won’t be disappointed. Seemed like good advice. But what about all those platitudes advising us to “look on the bright side”, “aim for the stars”, and all that maudlin stuff. A colleague once asked me why I always walk around looking down. I said, I find money that way. He immediately starting walking around looking down. I don’t know how successful he was, but he probably never tripped over anything again. We often hear interviews with people who lived to unexpectedly high ages, as if they wanted to. Oh, what’s your secret?! the interviewer asks. And they reel off some formula like keep a happy disposition, think positively, and consume a quart of Scotch and two packs of cigarettes a day. I talk back at the television and say, It’s probably that the telomeres on your chromosomes are unusually durable. Anyone who has had 9th grade biology knows that. But nobody hears me.

Still, I do tire of people who are consistently negative. I even tire of me as I pound out another monograph on the rapidly emerging AFP, American Fascist Party (formerly known as the Republican Party). It’s objectively a simple fact. Some of us see it as bad, but nearly half the voting public saw it as good in the 2020 elections. Looking at that scale I mentioned earlier, and calculating the likelihood of an awakening of democracy or a complete loss of democracy in the U.S. (or a Russian or Chines style sham democratic election), where would you place the probability that the marker would move toward stronger democracy or weaker to absent democracy? Or would you rather go shopping. Where should I put the marker on the scale for you, toward shopping or toward involvement in calculating democracy’s future?

Another calculation that has me wondering concerns action about climate change. Again, it’s objectively a simple fact, registered in a variety of measures. Yet people, whether major players in the AFP or simply ignorant followers of AFP disinformation, are just not reacting in ways which would suggest they understand they are hastening the destruction of much of life on this planet. If they bother to place the marker on the probability scale – which I doubt unless it is toward the improbable end – do they think severe consequences are improbable? And, even after they have been shown the certainty of gravely deteriorated conditions for their children and grandchildren, are they still unwilling to move the marker – which would be an admission? It may be that some of the uber-rich think they can retreat with their families to protected enclaves, able to afford the rapidly diminishing food needed to survive. But I suspect those people have never lived under circumstances of hardship.

Which is not to say they are reluctant to dole out hardship on others when they think it benefits them. The mock entity formerly known as SCOTUS, the Supreme Court of the United States, is currently leaning toward disempowering abortion rights through most of the United States, even in cases of rape or incest. What’s a probable why? Under the cloak of religion and pseudo-science the AFP would thereby disempower low income women and families in a way which will assure an absolutely desperate work force, willing to accept subsistence wages and deadly working conditions because they were unable to assert control over their own family size. At the same time, the AFP advocates the reduction or elimination of socio-economic programs which would assist these families in raising the children they were forced to bring into existence. But of course they would attack these programs.

An article published in Scientific American November 30, 2021 is titled Humans are Doomed to go Extinct. In precise and clear statements, figures and examples it cites and explains the factors I have mentioned for months if not years. But I’m very far from the only one having done so. Yet, how many people do you think will ever read this article, and who are these people? The problem is we have probably been talking to each other; the AFP, the ignorant masses who follow them, and the growing numbers of people too disempowered to do what they know is right won’t or can’t take the actions needed to reverse this accelerating process. That’s not even a probability; that’s a self evident certainty.

Oh, there I’ve gone and done it again. Some people say I see the worst in people. Er, well, yes. Because it’s there. And probably is simply too dangerous a concept to continue to accept.

Thoughts on Life

Thoughts on Life

by Marco M. Pardi

No man lives without jostling and being jostled; in all ways he has to elbow himself through the world, giving and receiving offense.” Thomas Carlyle

All comments are welcome and will receive a reply. All previous posts are open for comment.

How do you do what you do? Do you have limits?”

With about twelve feet separating their library chairs, Tonio looked over at Maartje and said, “You don’t fully know what I do.”

It’s pretty obvious, even if it doesn’t always make the papers. I seriously wonder if you have any ethics and, if so, what they are.” Maartje had been reading accounts of little children with hand grenades or bombs strapped to them and told to run up to groups of American soldiers and detonate themselves in Viet Nam. She wondered if Tonio would shoot a child or would he try to find cover. She asked him about this.

I don’t get into those situations, though I have been places where children by the side of the road suddenly raised an arm and you had to look quickly to see if it was a wave, or the toss of a rock, or the toss of a grenade. It was always a wave,” he said.

But if it were a grenade, would you shoot or find cover,” she asked.

Tonio thought about that. Of course, with the pin pulled the grenade is active and about to explode. Shooting the person standing close by and throwing it wouldn’t make much difference and would lose time in finding cover. Still, he had always had an unofficial rule: If a child appeared to be thirteen years old or older he regarded them as an adult and acted accordingly. At any age below that he would assume the child was only following directions and he would shoot to wound if he could. “I act upon grown adults and not just any adults. You are well aware there are some truly evil people in this world.”

Tonio had privately been down this path many times before. His first rule in taking an assignment was: Never let it become personal. He knew of predecessors who succumbed to that temptation and then could not escape the endless pursuit of self justification or satisfaction. He did, however, allow himself to consider different levels of culpability. To him, perimeter sentries were just hired Ivans, or Tariqs, or Pedros maybe ex-military maybe not, trying to feed themselves and their families. Almost certainly they had little to no idea of the extent or the gravity of the crimes the person or persons they were guarding were guilty of. If he could avoid these sentries, fine. If he could not, they had to be terminated. Of course, that was not without risk; many were on a clocked check-in schedule. Tonio would observe them to hear if they communicated somehow and he would quickly check over a body for communications devices.

Inner guards and body guards were another matter. They certainly knew the business and likely had accounted for a few casualties themselves. The risk here was that these personnel were invariably recruited from the ultra elite of various military units. Putting them down was not at all a moral issue.

And, of course, there was the target. Tonio preferred to know as little as possible about the justification for the target’s removal. Again, he did not want to develop a personal agenda.

It has been said the Mafia had a ground rule: Never terminate someone in front of their family. Tonio saw several variables in that scenario, but if it was his only recourse then that would have to happen. He would be gone before shock turned to tears.

In a few short weeks much of the Western world will be visited again by an obese old man in a red suit, an old man who likes to visit Malls and entice small children into sitting on his lap while he lulls them with bourbon breath into telling him if they’ve been bad or good. The Malls will be playing insipid Christmas songs, inspiring visions of sugar plum SEMTEX dancing in our heads.

Many cultures, especially through their religions, have developed a concept of Final Judgment, a Hearing in which a supposedly superior being weighs the Rights and Wrongs of one’s life. Apparently this being has been keeping track, and knows if you’ve been bad or good – you know the rest. I don’t know of any reference to being strapped to an early form of polygraph but the Classical Egyptians seemed to have anticipated that with the scarab amulet, a fetish object reputed to calm the heart and conscience of the deceased as he faced his interlocutor. The Babylonians and later the Persians took it further with the invention of Shaitan – later embroidered by the Hebrews during 500 years of the Babylonian Captivity as Satan. Shaitan, that voice in your mind which said “You know that’s not quite true” as you professed your defense, was considered by many to be an advocate, keeping you on the straight and narrow. But as the need grew to deflect blame onto others Shaitan grew as an externalized entity dedicated to winning your soul away from what should have been your just reward. Enter Satan, with greatly expanded career portfolio; no longer just an amicus curiae in the Final Act, he (in a prescient nod to the Me Too movement he could appear as a female) was ever present to tempt you throughout your life, thereby acquiring characteristics such as eternal rivaling the aforementioned superior being.

Okay, but seriously examining the “sin” concept including that most egregious example, “Original Sin”, what exactly is our inner Shaitan up to? Is he (Attn: I’m going to use male sex and gender here) simply a social construct embedded in us, as the Catholic Church says, by age 7, the “Age of Reason”? “Give us a child until the age of 7 and we’ll have him for the rest of his life” Jesuit saying. Is everything we do throughout life judged by standards we accepted and internalized in our first seven years? The Egyptians tell us our heart is placed on a scale held by (Anubis according to some, Osiris according to others) to be weighed against the feather of Ma’at. If our heart tips the scales, loaded with the sins of our life, we are doomed. And we agreed to this by age 7?

Funerary texts, in whatever religion, are interesting. The Book of Coming Forth by Day (commonly called The Egyptian Book of the Dead) even gives us a list of the questions the deceased will face during interrogation. Supposedly, this list helps us guide our lives so we can provide the right answers when the time comes. But what about our daily lives as we live them? A psychological term for certain memories is, Intrusive memories or thoughts. How often throughout the day does something trigger the entry of such a thought? And what do we do with it when it flashes before us? As common wisdom would have it, do we rationalize it or do we bury it, dreading its reappearance which we know is sure to come? Rationalizing is fairly routine while we are awake, but how about during that third of our lives we call sleep. We settle in for what we hope will be a restful night, the dream curtains open, and Shaitan sets the channel to Remember This? Ever awaken in a cold sweat hoping no one else was watching? Just a dream, we tell ourselves, or our bed partner now cowering as we rub the fist we punched into the headboard. Or we awaken in the morning and quickly find something to occupy our minds. The Morning News…. someone else’s problems.

As I see it the most important and meaningful part of my life has been as a parent. And I think many parents would agree that there have been could have and should have memorymoments, especially when, now as a grandfather I see the absolutely marvelous way my child has raised the grandchildren. But I think it’s important to remember the distinction – and it can be a big one, between could have and should have.

Discussing this with my daughter, one of the most helpful things she said to me was, You did the best you could with what you knew at the time. Yes, there certainly are times when that feels like putting a BandAid on a bullet hole. But it gives me the opportunity to honestly examine the context of could and to wonder just how much of my life, all our lives, was described by Shakespeare when, in As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII, Line 139 he has Jacques express:

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

Live well, Dear Readers.

QoD

“It has been a tough life.”

– Marco M. Pardi

Letters from Sasha: A Poem

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Note: Sasha would like readers to know she wrote this poem to express feelings about a confusing time in her life. It is not necessarily directed toward anyone other than herself – a self she didn’t fully realize until several years ago. Knowledge is power.

into the void

last night she didn’t sleep a bit

don’t worry she’ll be fine

but once again she’s in the pit

(the void shaped like your mind)

no other mind will ever do

no things can satisfy

no drug is ever shaped like you

the shape that gets her high

it’s not her fault she never knew

she didn’t know her brain

could dig a hole shaped just like you

then fill it up with pain

the Special Interest far beyond

a train, a plane, a map

sometimes she wants a magic wand

to free her from your trap

a bump, a drink, some tears, a song

yet nothing fills the hole

it’s good it’s bad it’s right it’s wrong

confusion takes a toll

most times content but later sad

her tears mixed up with joy

then discontent with feelings glad

the muse the fan the toy

it’s not your fault you couldn’t know

you’ll never know her brain

or places she thought she might go

or wishes wished in vain

she’s better now yet not today

today she’s in the throes

of thoughts that will not go away

so to your mind she goes

she yearns and waits and looks for word

your words can soothe her soul

and leave her feeling reassured

(but words can’t make her whole)

Letters from Sasha: Looking Ahead

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Introduction: There are some people who just keep giving of themselves and their time, without hesitation and without judgement.  No matter what is going on in their own lives, they continue to make time for countless others.  Thank you, Marco.

Dana

12.6.2011

Dear Professor Pardi,

“What this class did for me personally is nearly impossible to put in an email.  The semester was over too quickly, and I am already looking forward to the next! Everyone I spoke to was sad to see it come to a close.

Thank you again, and I will see you in January!”

Sincerely,

Sasha

10.30.21

Marco,

Thank you for this site and for encouraging others to contribute their thoughts.  It is clear you spend your time being available for others, and in between you write things we need to hear.  Unlike you, lately I spend most of my free time thinking about myself, and doing things for me.  You’ve also shared that the majority of your time is dedicated to signing hundreds of petitions and writing letters as an activist.  I wonder how you stay motivated and avoid feeling defeated or giving up.

Aside from writing, I’ve been through counseling a number of times.  No counselor really forced me to look at myself and most of the sessions were spent living in the past.  That was my doing because I wanted to be heard.  They were doing what therapists do, but constantly reliving the past kept me there.  If pain defines me, all I feel is pain.  When I try to ease the suffering, I only make it worse.  

Still, I’m grateful for any progress.  I’m fortunate others were there to listen when I couldn’t trust myself.  Now it’s time to move on and keep looking ahead.  We all have a past and challenging things happen to everyone.  No matter who we are, there will be people who just don’t like or refuse to accept us.. It’s never too late to make better choices despite what we have or haven’t accomplished, or what was done to us.  

Some of what I journaled was filler, by an insecure person still trying to fool herself.  I see no reason to return to that person.  There might be future Letters from Sasha, but they will be nothing like the ones that brought her here. Thanks for all you do!

Sasha

Introduction: A Letter to Marco

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29 October 2021

Marco,

A former student of yours contacted me.  She had my email address from class years ago; then we had a wonderful conversation about an exciting idea for the site.  She was in your Fall 2011 Intro to Anthropology class with me, and was also in one of your Death and Dying classes later on.  She was initially going to send some excerpts to you from her private journal – one she has been keeping since 2011.  I had forgotten about our old Google Blogspot page, but she’s been following your writing since then.  I suppose we never know who’s lurking and benefiting from your efforts, even if they don’t participate in the comment section.  

The majority of her journal entries are written as letters to you.  How fascinating is that!  Evidently there’s a wealth of material and she said writing has been extremely therapeutic – perhaps even lifesaving.  Over the years there were points in her life she felt suicidal.  Years ago her therapist suggested writing letters to someone, even to herself, without necessarily sending them.  Since she gained so much from your 2011 Intro class, she chose you as the “recipient.”   

Everything I’ll be sharing with you and the public is with her full permission.  Without any pressure I mentioned posting on the site and how that might inspire and help others as well as herself.  I’m elated she agreed to this!  She will have complete anonymity and a pseudonym.  I also assured her that as site administrator I can edit or delete at her request, as can you if she lets you know.  She’ll provide some context to preface each entry, such as what she may have been struggling with at the time.

Sadly, she’s been experiencing a challenging mental health episode, and so began reading her earliest entries to see where she was in 2011 and beyond.  I can relate to the shyness over telling you about the letters; many of us have been starstruck in your presence, as well as anxious about submitting work to you.  My critical analysis essay kept me up at night until it was graded.  Despite how approachable and caring you are, I think the anxiety comes from knowing you can easily detect insincerity and more.

I’m happy and grateful she’s willing to contribute to the site with something deeply personal.  We considered the possibility of reader comments, but for now she declined responding, even through me. Since she’s been lurking on the site she knows you reply to every comment. Perhaps she will eventually contact you as well.  

Oh – almost forgot to include this.  She asked that I suggest some names for her pseudonym, and Sasha came to mind.  Despite the mostly male Russian nomenclature, I like it.  I’ll create a separate section on the site for her entries, but we couldn’t decide on a title for them.  “Letters to Marco” or something to that effect might work, but she’s open to suggestions since you own the site.  

I’m really looking forward to this, and feel I might benefit as well.  You should know how much you have inspired and helped others.  

Dana

Update:  Marco not only agreed to the idea, but also suggested a name for the entries. The author of the journal and I are thrilled with his title:  “Letters from Sasha.”

Seeing A Light

Seeing A Light

Untold Stories of Tonio

by Marco M. Pardi

All comments are welcome and will receive a reply. All previous posts are open for comment.

Maartje sat reading in the library of the home she shared with Tonio. A large home, appointed with original art, Persian rugs, artifacts from around the world, and many hundreds of books. One of the four bedrooms was crowded with well over $100,000.00 worth of audio-visual equipment. All protected by a detection system designed and installed by Tonio. When she marveled at the home, obviously more than a college professor’s salary could obtain, he said only, I have other talents that are in demand. Of the exotic detection system he said, Getting into a house is easy; getting out alive is not.

Maartje had several talents of her own. In a studio she and Tonio had set up in the home she used his Bolex MacroZoom movie camera to produce “ClayMation” films; his Bolex H16s were just too big. She would make an entire set, complete with characters, from modeling clay and then, setting the camera on single frame, shot a frame-altered a character-shot a frame-altered a character and so on until the finished product was a motion picture film in which the characters smoothly and naturally “came to life”. Tonio could not imagine the discipline needed for such an intensive task.

At other times Maartje created stunning oil paintings, usually of natural scenes. One, which hung in the living room, was a 3′ X 5′ rendition of a forest pool, the trees deeply dense and vibrant, each leaf and branch properly reflected in the water. When Tonio recovered from stunned silence he told her it made him think of what survivors of near death experiences often say, “Everything there was more real than it is here.” Even while watching their favorite PBS programs, Faulty Towers, To The Manor Born, and Benny Hill, Maartje would sit with her portfolio open on her lap and sketch pen-inked cartoons of their daily life complete with humorous dialogue that only insiders would truly understand.

Maartje’s artistic nature was well known in the community and she was on constant call to render stunning murals inside private homes and some businesses. But in her off time she loved to wander slowly through hardware stores looking at the parts and pieces, imagining what she could do with a yard full of them.

Maartje had wondered briefly if Tonio was in the burgeoning drug trade but quickly found he was utterly intolerant of any mind altering substances, even a cold beer. Then, there were the austere and very serious people who dropped by. By no means naive, she pegged two of them for Mossad. Her deep and extensive knowledge of audio-visual equipment, and her work history, seemed to clear her for sitting in on conversations which, while guarded, were clear to her in their meaning. She wanted in.

But Tonio had plans for the week-end. Among his books were volumes by Hans Holzer, a journalist turned paranormal investigator. In his travels Holzer had come across an array of photographs which appeared to show everyday scenes with the spirit or wraith of someone long or recently deceased clearly visible, and recognizable, in the scene. Also fascinating were photos taken by tourists inside European cathedrals. Some showed gauzy monks kneeling in prayer, but they appeared to be kneeling in the floor not on the floor. A little research found they were kneeling where the floor had been hundreds of years earlier.

Tonio, having gained notoriety in the developing field of Death & Dying (which he found ironic), could think of no good reason spirits would hang around a cemetery but he did describe a particularly vivid experience while spending the night in a Central European cemetery. (Maartje did not ask the obvious question.) So, along with another couple from the college they were going to spend the night in two local cemeteries for which Tonio had already obtained permission,

After dinner they loaded a variety of audio-visual equipment in Maartje’s car. Tonio’s new Italian sports car did not have room. Maartje and Tonio had gone several times to a firing range where she proved a fast learner and excellent shot but they brought no firearms. As Tonio said, What’s the use of shooting a dead guy? So, as night was falling they arrived at the first cemetery, finding the other couple waiting. Maartje squeezed the man’s arm. Just checking, she said. She had a disarming sense of humor and a distinctive laugh. Not usually one for pet names, she did often call Tonio Darlin’ or refer to him as the DEEVIL. Her Dutch language bled through on occasion.

Set up was a bit clumsy, however Maartje, tall and slender but muscular knew exactly what to do even in very limited light. Tonio assumed she could easily field strip and re-assemble a semi-automatic handgun in darkness, and he was later proved correct. She also proved a masterful learner in Kung Fu, Krav Maga, and knife fighting. But she struggled with learning the Japanese covert hand-hypnosis technique Tonio was teaching her.

With the audio equipment set up on power sources attached to the cars they settled in to take infra-red and regular film shots of various areas. But just then a strange sound began, and got louder. Laughing. Human laughing, at a low pitch and volume. No one spoke, but the sidelong glances indicated everyone had heard it. A while after it stopped everyone went back to photography, eventually moving into a long covered hallway open at each end. Briefly using flashlights they discovered that deposited in the walls on each side were crypts containing cremains. The names and dates were inscribed on each, with a bud vase attached by each name. Returning to absolute darkness they took more photos.

As the moonless night wore on they gathered together in the open for a coffee break. Just then, at around 1:30 a.m., they heard a horrible screaming coming from a neighborhood bordering the cemetery. All agreed it sounded like a vicious wife beating in progress. The car the other couple was using was equipped with a CB radio capable of calling the Sheriff’s department, which they did. Amazingly, two Deputy cars arrived quickly. The Deputies were unaware of why they were in the cemetery but, to Maartje’s surprise, they knew of Tonio and treated it as just another quirk of his. Still, it was unfortunate that despite their cruise through the neighborhood they were unable to find the source and take any action.

Having completed their sound and photo shoot at this site Maartje and the group drove to the other cemetery, a much older one with some ornate above ground tombs. After setting up their equipment they began filming and recording. But something was odd. There was very little to no ambient light yet they were able to easily see the few fresh graves standing out. As if they glowed. Indeed, each grave, even the older ones, had a concrete border surrounding it and the border seemed to glow.

They finished their work and their documentation shortly before dawn and went to their homes. Later that day they gathered and listened to the tapes, hearing the distinct laughing. They agreed there had been no place for someone to hide and play tricks. So, they took the audio tapes and the various films to a professional advertising studio where Maartje had done some work and, without much explanation, asked them to process all the material.

As this seemed to take longer than expected Maartje inquired into the delay. She was told the very best technicians on staff had looked and listened repeatedly, conducting every test they knew of, and had reached conclusions they logically rejected but knew to be true: The audio was indeed human speech, though at a frequency unknown to them; the photographs taken in complete darkness within the crematory crypt clearly and legibly showed the names on the crypts and showed the bud vases casting shadows consistent with a single, angular light source though no light was on; and, the concrete borders on the graves at the other cemetery (and a couple of fresh graves themselves) showed light which was not a reflection from a light source elsewhere. It seemed to come from within.

Weeks later Tonio, who was leaving the college, gave a good-bye presentation, showing just the photos, for a general audience. Included were the ones inside the crematorium crypt. After the presentation finished a little old lady trotted up to Tonio and declared she had an explanation for the light in the crypt. “It was a UFO! You know UFOs can come in all sizes and I’m pretty certain one slipped into the crypt to see what you all were doing.”

Standing next to him, Maartje felt that was as good an explanation as any.

Maartje knew she had a congenital heart condition for which there was no treatment. This would take her at an early age, and although she reminded Tonio of it from time to time they spoke of being together for what time they had whether they married or not. She had also come to feel that Tonio’s “consulting” work was something from which he might never return, or return in one piece. She decided that, whenever possible, she would accompany him, nurse him back to health, or cremate him if the time came. She got the first two, even moving thousands of miles over six years. Then things changed.

Uncivil War

Uncivil War

by Marco M. Pardi

I sometimes think of what future historians will say of us. A single sentence will suffice for modern man: he fornicated and read the papers.” Albert Camus

You can get much further with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone.” Al Capone

All comments are welcome and will receive a reply. All previous posts are open for comment.

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Although mainstream newspapers are gaining ascendancy on the Endangered Media List, they are daring to discuss the increasing talk of coming civil war in the United States. Whether anyone is bothering to read them is another topic.

When, in the late 1940’s, my family and I settled in the United States we lived, almost literally, on the shores of Lake Erie in northern Ohio. Canada was of far more relevance to me than the steaming, insect infested South. But a few years into school I learned of the American Civil War. I did not find that war meaningful to me, it having happened decades earlier mostly in a land, the South, I had never seen and which held no interest. We had just come from years in the cauldron of World War II Europe. I still think of the Civil War in those distant terms, even though I have lived in different parts of the South, as I do now.

Coming to the South I heard of the War by other names: The War Between the States (logical only if you accept the idea of two opposing monolithic blocs); and, The War of Northern Aggression (acceptable only if you overlook the South’s opening attack on Fort Sumter). But by whatever name it was not as clear cut as most of the participants and the simplistic history books would have it. Although literacy rates were higher in Northern urban areas, the common soldiers on both sides were largely illiterate to semi-literate, often barely able to sign their names to their pay stubs. They had none to limited access to newspapers, no radio, no television, and no internet. The soldiers of the North, dressed in blue, knew they should shoot the soldiers of the South, dressed in gray. And vice versa. A core belief about the cause of the war was the enforcement of the abolition of slavery. But few could foresee the enormous ramifications such a cause would bring.

Indeed, the American Civil War was fought mainly in the agricultural South, and when it was over and the slaves were freed the farmers and plantation owners found their fields and crops devastated and themselves without the money to pay labor which had, up to that time, been largely cost free. Many of the former slaves, finding themselves unable to secure paid jobs, moved to the North. In doing so they fell prey to the Robber – Barons, the “Captains of the Industrial Revolution”, who quickly exploited their desperation for work by hiring them into jobs that were little more than the slave labor from which they had just been freed. Add to that the reluctance of many Northern employers to hire immigrants, White or Black, obviously – one indicator was their dialectical speech – from the South.

But for the most part the Civil War was clarified by more than the color of the uniforms: Speech patterns, comparative levels of education, exposure to other cultures, definite geographic identity, and likely socio-economic futures presented clear demarcations. These demarcations have now become blurred to non-existent in the subsequent decades. While election cycles thrive on the depictions of “Blue States” and “Red States” and political parties gerrymander districts to gain election advantages, it remains quite true that you do not know your neighbor’s political orientation until you ask. If you dare ask.

A few posts ago I wrote of a road trip to rural North Georgia during which I saw a multitude of Trump signs, guns for sale signs, and indications from other people that my Covid mask was a political statement. Local candidates for political office devoted more space to their allegiance to Trump than to any positions they would take on issues of local concern. But while it is easy, even amusing, to paint these people with a single broad brush, that would be a serious error. The obvious demarcations evident in the North versus South conflict do not apply.

Yet, there is increasing “chatter” on social media sites and right wing “news” channels, which are blatantly propaganda outlets, about a coming “civil war”. Readers of my column are aware that I have some background in counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism. And it is this background which has me wondering just how such an event would take place. A journalist addresses the classic question such as: Who, What, When, Where, and Why. I would add How. Many mainstream commentators are referring to the January 6th attack as Insurrection; and, many factions, such as Trumpists and anti-vaxxers are referring to it as a “great success”. Aside from a damaged building and injured and dead people, how was it a success? Do they see it as their Fort Sumter?

Counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism specialists examine and assess intelligence which provides insights into such factors as Short and Long Term Capability; Internal Cohesion; Liaison With and Ability to Link with Other Groups; Logistics and Support Capability; and, Assumed Tactical Outcomes in Service to Strategic Goals. Countering insurgents or terrorists requires thinking like an insurgent or a terrorist; thus, when they do what you have expected and have prepared for they are far easier to excarnate.

Many people think only of the act, not the atmosphere of resources which must support the act. In explaining the inner workings of an agency for which I worked I used the example of an aircraft carrier. The mention of that term brings visions of fighter pilots flying off a deck into action. Yet a carrier is a floating city, with cooks, clerks, supply personnel, navigators, communicators, medical personnel, mechanics, plumbers, and a host of other career fields that will never touch an aircraft. In the same way an insurgency requires a broad foundation composed of a variety of human and material resources; terrorist cells less so, but still in need of support.

With this firmly in mind I would conclude that talk of civil war is the hyperbolic venting of fantasy. Yes, 74 million people voted to re-elect Trump. But the likelihood that even a tiny fraction of that number would knowingly participate in some form in an insurgency is vanishingly small. Yes, gun ownership, membership in “militias” or some other Army-Navy store dress up and play groups, and membership in science rejecting religions accounts for troubling numbers. But I strongly suspect two elements are at play here: The people who talk the loudest are the least likely to show up in the face of danger (consider Trump inciting a mob on January 6th with assurances that he would march on the Capitol with them. He then ran and hid in the White House and watched the mob on television). And, this is most troubling, I strongly suspect the most virulent talk of civil war is coming from outside entities, such as Russia, China, and Iran, which have a vested interest in seeing this country tear itself apart. Unlike the men who rushed to don the Blue or the Gray, people across this country have access to mass media and social media in many forms and our external adversaries are masters of these resources. Perhaps our war efforts should be more focused on countering ignorance, the actual foundation of the social and political choices people make.

At the Presidential inauguration of Joe Biden a young Black woman, a stunningly brilliant poet, delivered her poem, “The Hill We Climb”. Quoting salient points, she said, “We braved the belly of the beast……We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace….Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished.”

Opposites

Opposites

by Marco M. Pardi

Behind every silver lining, there’s a dark cloud.” George Carlin

I am lying.” Zen Koan. (If true, it is false)

All comments are welcome and will receive a reply. All previous posts are open for comment.

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Tonio, you’re like a son to me but if the order comes I’d kill you in a heartbeat.”

Thanks, Herb. The feeling’s mutual.”

Recently retired, “Herb” had been a junior OSS officer and assistant to the OSS officer both he and Tonio had known as “Jimmy” in the closing months of WWII in Europe. Herb and Jimmy had both taken an interest in Tonio, the younger son of a multi-lingual woman with American citizenship who had been trapped in Europe at the outbreak of the war and had signed on with the OSS. After Tonio’s small family had eventually gone to the States Tonio assumed he would not hear from them again. But soon after he had enlisted in the Air Force Security Forces and been stationed in North Africa Tonio heard from Herb. The contact came through Colonel Barker, Base Provost Marshal. Herb, in coordination with Jimmy, both then in what had become the CIA (known to insiders only as The Company), had a request: Come to the American Embassy in the city 20 miles from the base for a “private conversation”.

Having achieved highest rankings in Unarmed and Armed Defense and Assault, easily competent in learning languages, and already having established a track record, Tonio was not surprised. He agreed to the meeting, curious about what could have reawakened contact after so many years. So began a very long and exceptionally well hidden career as an ad hoc problem solver. Tonio had barely contained a laugh when someone in the Company asked if he was a “trouble shooter”. As a NOC (non-official cover), no COS (Chief of Station) had ever seen even a photograph of him; this was to prevent an inadvertent sign of recognition should a hostile agency present the COS with a mug shot and charges.

Over the years Tonio rarely looked back on what became his initiation into this ultra-classified and tiny group within the Company though it was necessarily brutal. Indeed, it couldn’t have been more different from his public persona as a socially conscious college professor. When he did privately reminisce on that and others of the many assignments it was only to marvel at how his life was a portrait of opposites.

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My interest in the concept of opposites began very early, with my exposure to religion classes taught in Catholic primary schools. Even though, for survival’s sake, I went through the motions, I was not long into the process when I accepted that I didn’t believe such things; I came to adopt Saint Contrarius as my patron. But I’m not a contrarian in all things; I just got an early start at looking for both sides.

For example, when some classmates asked the instructor what heaven was like and what people do there the answer was: They are gathered around God’s throne joyfully singing his praises for eternity. Whoa. Eternity? Someone once said, Eternity is a long time. Bad enough sitting through a 60 minute class. Eternity? And how long can you be “joyful” before this starts to go south? I mean really south. As in Down There. And how long can this God hold out listening to all this yowling? Even Donald Trump must tire of being surrounded by sycophants who tell him he won the election. Can we hear about hell again?

So this opened the door onto the winding pathway some of us call Life, and others call The Road to Perdition. Everything comes with another side, even gift horses though I’ve never thought they had anything hidden in their mouths. (I would caution against peering in the other end, unless you just want to get kicked across the pasture.)

Lao Tzu said, A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. By the way, in archaic Mandarin Lao Tzu means simply Old Man, the idea being that age and experience bring wisdom. Something we’ve tended to forget in our Google addled age. (Say that after four Martinis.)

But while quite young I was awarded the distinction of being one “who thinks too much”. Some might see that as an affliction which could result in inaction, indecisiveness, even missed opportunities. Seeing the benefits and the drawbacks of thoughtfulness, I determined to think fully but think quickly. About that same time I realized such an approach to life required willingness to deal with the consequences of decisions including learning from them. So, among all the various philosophies I examined I found that Taoism and Buddhism had the most sensible and useful concepts about thinking.

In Taoism (pronounced Dowism) the symbol is the message. Most people are at least aware of the circular “Yin-Yang” symbol, the juxtaposition of opposites. That’s nice. But the fundamental principle of the symbol is Hsiang Sheng (Mutually Arising) which is embodied where the light and the dark elements meet. Thus, light makes no sense without the presence of dark, and the reverse. Up requires Down. We could go on. So looking back at those early years of wondering when eternal heavenly joy becomes meaningless tedium, I must wonder if someone who has never experienced the deepest pit of sadness – and cannot therefore hold the vivid memory of that pit – can experience the utmost joy.

Decades ago I saw a giggling, smiling man sitting on the floor of his institutional room, tightly strapped into the straitjacket that was commonly used at the time. I asked the attending nurse if, since he seemed happy, couldn’t he be released from the jacket. She said, “Oh, no. It’s the jacket that makes him happy.” I could only suppose he carried somewhere the, for him, horrible memories of being released from the jacket for bathing and other functions. Or maybe they sedated him before removing the jacket. I didn’t ask.

Moderation in all things. This proverb is well known, though its origins are cloudy. Hesiod (700 BCE) and Plautus (250-184BCE) are among the most commonly cited authors. But note: It says all things, not some things, not just joyful things. But who determines what’s moderate? Spare the rod and spoil the child. Heard that one before? I bet.

I know some families that do not allow their children, even teenagers, to watch or hear the evening news. Okay, but when will they be allowed to see what the world is like? And how long do we suppose they do not get versions of the news from other sources, such as other children? To this day I remember some of the crazy stuff I “learned”, as a pre-teen, about sex from the learned conversations among the other boys. Fortunately, they were not discussing more dangerous pursuits.

Speaking of which, you have probably heard – and maybe said – Let them learn from their own mistakes. Sound familiar? Hey, I’ve even said something similar in my own defense as someone tried to intervene in my plans.

That’s okay for the relatively inconsequential things in life. But we are clearly at a threshold upon which we must honestly face how we have accepted, and even rushed toward false dichotomies that, if left uncorrected, will kill us.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, arguably the last truly Republican President of the United States, coined the phrase military/industrial complex to characterize the cadre of power brokers who actually steer this country, regardless of the political theater which changes acts every four or eight years. The Labor Movement of the 1920’s and ’30’s drew much of its inspiration from the foundational principles what had been the philosophy of communism. True communism, which simply cannot exist in societies at higher than the band level, is the anathema of fascism. Unfortunately, societies can call themselves whatever they want, and so the Soviet Union, China, and others called themselves Communist. They were not and are not; they are totalitarian states. But the covert fascists in the American military/industrial complex, knowing better than to openly label themselves, frantically pointed to the “Communist” states as dreaded enemies of freedom and successfully generated what became known as “The Red Scare”. This effectively crippled American Labor for years, and continues to reverberate through even today’s resistance to mask mandates and Covid vaccines. In short, the false lure of “freedom” touted loudly by the Republican Party in association with every socio-political goal or issue to be voted is a false flag. It is waving the flag of one form of totalitarianism as a salvation from another form of totalitarianism. At heart, they are the same thing.

But the effort to get everyone to get vaccinated and to wear a mask is a purely apolitical, health based issue. Claiming the “freedom” to not do so in fact claiming the freedom to put the lives of others at risk. These same people are crusading against science and critical thinking, claiming these are socialist or communist (most of these people seem unable to tell the difference) plots to limit our freedom to destroy the planet.

Robert Penn Warren said, (I paraphrase) “The truth takes a long time to be true.” We are out of time. We can no longer entertain false dichotomies and allow ourselves to be led down the road to perdition. We must see truth and we must act on it.

In one of his lucid moments Ronald Reagan addressed global divisions by posing a threat from an external enemy, an alien civilization invading Earth. He suggested that such a threat would erase our divisions and unite us as never before.

But that scenario, being a seeming opposite to all of us, does not require honest self examination. We are indeed under global attack, not only from a virus, but from the consequences of our own actions: Climate Change. Many years ago Pogo said it for us: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” Until we have the moral courage to look within and understand that what we are doing is the opposite of what is good for us, our children, and the planet we will continue down the Road to Perdition. But unlike Lao Tzu’s suggestion, it is doubtful if we will make it a thousand miles.

Deferred Gratification

Deferred Gratification

by Marco M. Pardi

The fundamental cause of trouble in the world today is that the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.” Bertrand Russell.

All comments are welcome and will receive a reply. All previous posts are open for comment.

As Tonio cleared through Immigration & Customs in the Tangier-Boukhalef airport, soon to be known as the Tangier Ibn Battouta airport, 15 km southwest of the city center he made two quick stops. First he entered a gift shop and purchased an English – Berber dictionary and phrase book, then he went to the men’s room. The book was to bolster his cover. He knew the main dialect of Berber was Danja, with three sub-dialects Tarifit, Tashelhit, and Central Atlas Tamazight and he was curious to see how any of them differed from the Hamitic Arabic he had learned hundreds of miles to the east. But he also strictly adhered to the operational principle of never letting on that one understood a local language. Volumes of precious information floated in the air as people assumed he could not understand. In the men’s room he quickly ascertained it was empty and then took a prepared “Robert Redford” mustache from his book bag and applied it. Then, a Stanford University baseball cap and a large pair of Serengeti aviator’s sunglasses.

Stepping outside he heard the recorded ṣalat aẓ-ẓuhr, thecall tonoonday prayer issuing from the nearby mosque, just as he spotted the cab with mismatched hubcaps he knew would be waiting. Immediately on entering the cab the driver sped off toward Tangier souk dakhel, near the Ancien Medina. Still silent, the driver cruised down Avenue Sidi Bou Arraqia and turned right onto Rue de la Liberte where he came to a stop outside a sporting goods store. Tonio’s ultimate destination, the small villages in the Idaren Draren (“Mountains of the Mountains”) region of the Atlas mountains would require some equipment.

As Tonio entered the empty store a stunning young woman rose behind the counter, deep honey hair, slightly tanned complexion and brilliant hazel eyes. She immediately stepped back into a corridor and disappeared. He thought of his life companion, Maartje, waiting for him at home and heard her in his mind chuckling, “Enjoy the garden….”. He never doubted they had some sort of psychic connection. As he waited he thought again of how he had quoted to Maartje the 9th-century Arab poet al-Buhturi as they had first met years ago:


طلعتَ لهم وقتَ الشروقِ فعاينوا           سنا الشمسِ من أُفْقٍ ووجهَك من افْقِ

وما عاينوا شمسينِ قبلَهُما التقى          ضياؤهما وَفقاً من الغرب والشرق

You appeared to them at dawn so that they saw the rays of the sun from one horizon and your face from another


Never before had they seen two suns whose lights met in concord from west and east

The woman silently returned with a medium sized box, setting it on the counter. Opening it he saw a pair of worn hiking boots, some socks, a canteen, and a First Aid kit. In the kit he found a 9mm Fabrique Nationale FN509 Compact Tactical with threaded suppressor barrel and suppressor, and three full 12 rd magazines. Rolled into the boots were large wads of Moroccan Dirham, the national currency. He nodded to the young woman, collected the box under his arm, and left the store.

Once back in the cab the driver turned for 17 Rue El Oued, the address of Dar Imzdan, the small hotel reserved for him. This drive was more difficult, winding through narrower streets, avoiding donkeys laden with towering loads, and children darting across the path. Their eventual arrival was announced by other loudspeakers wailing out the call to salat al-asr, the afternoon prayer. As the mosque was two streets over there was no need for Tonio to wait in the cab while the faithful performed wudu, the ritual cleansing at the fountain out front. The less he was seen the better. The driver declined money, saying only “La” (No), so he slung his overnight bag over his shoulder and his box under his arm and went inside.

He went through the registration process and, as the clerk was turning for the key to his room, requested a change of room. This done, he went upstairs and scanned the room for electronics and pinhole cameras before opening his bag. In a couple of hours he would order room service from the dining room, settle in with a book, and wait for his early morning tourist flight to the village of Tifawt, high in the Atlas mountains.

Room service arrived with a bowl of harira, with chicken instead of lamb followed by a large order of rfissa, again with chicken instead of lamb, with a small glass of iced mint tea and a carafe of Italian coffee. All was accompanied by the salat al-maghrib, the call to sunset prayer issuing from the mosque.

Precisely at dawn Tonio was awakened by the muezzin chanting the salat as-subh, the call to morning prayer. He reached for Maartje but found only sheets cooled by the sea air. Dressing quickly he put on socks, boots, an over sized T-shirt and different cargo shorts. The shorts were equipped, inside the small of the back, with a sewn in cloth holster. A web belt with a wide, rectangular stainless steel buckle, inlaid with wood and diagonally crossed with a stainless steel bar was already threaded through the shorts. A flick of the fingers released the bar which became the handle of a flip-out 2 1/3” scalpel blade used for slicing the carotid arteries of knocked-out sentries. Only fools and movie characters leave a sentry unconscious. With mustache and hat in place he slung his overnight bag, with its added contents, over his shoulder and left the room.

Outside, the cab with mismatched hubcaps pulled up and they sped off to the airport where a dubious twin prop airplane waited to take him and six other tourists to Tifawt. Private companies didn’t bother with any kind of airport security and patrons came in by an unattended gate.

Tifawt had only recently been dragged into the 20th century, by the man Tonio was coming for. Agency analysts had identified him as the financier who diverted and washed funds from various charities before parceling them out to various terrorist groups operating against Israel and surrounding countries deemed murtadun, or apostate. He had renovated an old fort on a rise about 1 kilometer from Tifawt and had electrified most of the village. Though he had his own heliport, he had added a single paved runway to the village.

Tonio watched the approach to the runway, feeling as if they were landing on someone’s driveway. The walk into town was short and delivered him to various shops catering to tourists. One of these rented dirt bikes and he quickly arranged one, with saddle bags, for a week. Since, upon completion of the job, he would use the dirt bike to travel by night to a much larger village for a flight out, he would wipe a small roll of dirham with gasoline and leave it for the shop. He found the idea of washing money amusing in this case. In any case, the name under which he had taken the tourist flight and rented the bike had been drawn from the Topeka, Kansas phone book.

Emptying his overnight bag into one saddlebag, then folding the bag into the other, he was off to see the village. He cruised through the more modern area and headed for the outskirts. Should anyone ask, he was researching the effects of modernization on the local culture.

It being late afternoon he stopped in an open area among some houses, got out his phrase book, and exchanged greetings with children playing make shift soccer. He rounded his pronunciation to fit his appearance. In moments a man stepped out of a home and walked to some sheep standing nearby. He grabbed a lamb who bleated loudly as an ewe (the mother?) called frantically along with the others. Setting the lamb down near the children he slit its throat. The lamb gargled a bleat and staggered in circles as blood pulsed over a foot from the wound, pooling on the ubiquitous red Moroccan dirt. The children giggled and looked at Tonio as the lamb fell over on its side and its little legs came to a stop.

Tonio was outraged, though he kept a flat affect. He, and Maartje, had long campaigned against the brutal slaughter of lambs, calves, piglets and other young animals that unspeakably self-centered humans craved for their tender flesh. They had gathered and circulated information and photographs of such young animals as calves torn from their mothers and locked in cages too small for them to turn around, sows locked into gestation crates until delivery of piglets for “gourmet” dining, chickens, ducks and geese overfed in small cages to the point they could not hold up their own body weight. “Factory farms” was the term. The range and diversity of the victims, even including dogs and cats, was almost too long to list. Yet people flocked to the restaurants and the markets, picking and choosing parts of animals they had no idea how to assemble into the real, breathing, feeling beings. Commodity. A lifeless term applied to living, sentient beings.

Tonio and Maartje knew that campaigning against such practices, trying to change such values, was almost pointless. The world’s craving for meat was increasing with the rising standard of living; what an ironic concept. They also campaigned against the trade in elephant ivory, rhino horns, bush meat, and bones, such as tiger, used to make trinkets, food, and traditional medicine. That trade was managed by highly placed individuals in various countries, people who could finance the use of armed helicopters to bring poacher teams to elephant and rhino kills, deploy chain saws to strip off tusks and horns, and leave the carcasses to rot, families to mourn, and orphans to starve and be taken by predators. Exterminate the people at the top and, eventually, the trade would be much reduced if not eliminated.

They often wished that the resources devoted to putting Tonio and the very few others like him into the field against terrorists could be at least partially diverted into the elimination of the top financiers of the trade in these items. Shooting individual poachers was simply turning back the sea with a teaspoon. They had often made the case that much of the money from this trade went into the coffers of terrorist organizations. And yes, they had seen the unpublished photos of the shredded Israeli schoolchildren blown apart by bombs on their buses but had unsuccessfully tried to include the upper tier animal parts traders into the target matrix. Maybe when he retired he and Maartje could go into business on their own.

Tonio snapped back to the task at hand. SIGINT and HUMINT determined that the financier would be at his fortified villa, preparing to host a party of like minded internationals. He cranked up the dirt bike and set off on his reconnoiter as evening fell. The animal parts trade would have to wait for another time.

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